Monday, October 19, 2009

the fireman comparison

It seems to be a new common comparison: Everyone likes the oh-so-socialist concept of the fire department. And it's just like universal health care! How in the world could you be against firemen, with their washboard abs and pinup calendars and fancy trucks and cute spotted dogs. They're the same damn thing as socialized medicine, so just get off your greedy bastard capitalist ass and pay up.

And to this I say: Non-sequitor much? They are exactly alike except that they're totally and absolutely different. In fact, they're different in so many ways that I'd have to attack them from multiple angles.

Mitigation v. Asset reimbursement

Let's be frank here. Health care insurance is -- well, insurance. Insurance is nothing more than a business contract where you (theoretically) enter on your own free will. You spread risk among a pool of similar risks. You insure some asset -- and if you lose or damage that asset, the contract agrees to replace or repair it. In the case of health insurance, your asset is your absolutely most valuable one: your own self.

Fire fighting is disaster mitigation. An asset (such as a home) has encountered a serious disaster (a fire, obviously) and firemen (with washboard abs) show up to intervene and keep loss at a minimum. This may mean they save a house. Or it may mean they contain the fire to one house to keep it from spreading to the house next door.

A more accurate analogy

Okay, come on. Let's think of another analogy that is more apropos that is similar to health insurance... Come on. It should be right there on the tip of your tongue. I'm practically giving it away. Still don't get it? Fire insurance, Einstein. Health insurance is to protecting your body as fire insurance is to protecting your house. Fire insurance is generally not considered a right (at least not yet). And fire insurance is not usually provided by the government with universal coverage. Why not? Because it's based on risk pools. Do you really want to pay your taxes in to a single universal pool where your house gets the same coverage (at the same premium) as the gasoline production plant across town? Your house -- worth maybe $200,000 -- versus a billion dollar petrochemical plant. Your house, where the chance of catching on fire are slim versus the plant that makes about 16 highly flammable materials. Why in the world would you not want to nationalize fire insurance and spread the risk for those poor petrochemical production folks?

If you really, really must draw an analogy to a fire department, the true analogy is a health department... You know, those folks that talk about washing your hands and give out restaurant scores -- not fricking nationalized health insurance. If you want an analogy to a fireman (with washboard abs) you'd be better off comparing him to a doctor or a nurse.

The problem of scale

And the analogy suffers from a severe problem of scale -- as if you finally agree your child can have a hamster and come home to find she's made a pet of a goddamn elephant. A fire department is a small, localized unit with a very defined task. Nationalized health care is an enormous undertaking on the federal level. It's a health program brought to you by the same health geniuses that brought you the food pyramid and the lipiphobic high carbohydrate diet that's turned us all into walking heart attacks while avoiding any semblance of science it can possibly avoid.

And on the topic of scale, I might also simply remind you: the US Constitution really does not apply so much to the ins and outs of local municipalities. It applies to the federal government.... you know, the one that wants to birth a behemoth.

One error means two is better

And why, oh why, do we think that because fire departments are operated in a socialist manner (assuming that really was true) that this would mean everything else in our lives should operate this way? Why not suggest the opposite? "The current mass of government regulation and intervention has totally trashed the business of health care. We should restructure fire departments in a way to totally avoid making this mistake. They should be paid for in a 100% voluntary manner." Add in our scale problems and the "it works for a fire department, so it must work for an enormous nationwide health care system" is sort of the same argument as "this fire in the fireplace looks pretty, why don't we set the whole house on fire?"

...if we did that, maybe those firemen would show up and we'd get to see their washboard abs.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Roman Pole and Ski

[Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been "Roman Bone and Skate" ... since that is more exact vernacular... but I truly thought that was too much of a stretch for people to get. See, I do edit sometimes.]

As always, what is interesting to me is not the actual stuff that happens. It's the failure to generalize. That seems to be a real theme for me. We all know what happened. It's been in the news for 30 plus years. Roman gives hottie teenager booze and drugs. Roman bones hottie teenager. Roman confesses and is convicted. Roman jumps bail. Like I said: that story just isn't all that interesting.

And, to be honest, I've had a lifelong wishy washy feeling about statutory rape. I mean, I get it: it's wrong to bone a child. But let's be honest: there are some 13 year olds that are actually pretty mentally mature. And, furthermore, there is an ever growing pool of twenty-somethings that are still mental children. And I've been that 18 year old boy looking at jailbait very near my own age -- knowing that the girl was technically "more mature" than I was by physical, emotional and developmental scales and "less mature" only by legal scales.

And many, many cultures just don't have a problem with "under 18's" having sex. For grins, just check out the ages of consent over North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. You'll see that the ages are all over the board. And, in fact, it wasn't so long ago in the US that it was not uncommon for 13 to 16 year old girls to be married. So California's age of consent of 18 is really sort of an arbitrary number we've all sort of just had to agree on.

What is interesting (to me) is the Hollywood outrage over his arrest. And it's interesting for multiple reasons. Hollywood is aghast that someone would be so crass as to arrest this poor genius so long after we've put this all behind us. After all, he's a genius. Did I mention he was smart and really good at what he does? But, in our current culture and time, tell me exactly what Hollywood elites would think if it were Spork in this predicament instead of Mr. Pole-and-ski?

I can give you a hint... it would have most definitely turned out differently. I would have been charged with providing alcohol and drugs to a minor. I would have been charged with statutory rape. And I would most likely have been charged with real, honest-to-goodness "rape rape" (to steal a phrase from Whoopi-cushion Goldberg.) In almost every description of "rape rape" I have seen, giving someone (over 18) booze and drugs to get sex is classified as rape. And while that may shed a dark shadow on margarita night with the wife, it is most certainly universal in law.

And how would the Hollywood elite have felt if convicted child rapist Spork skipped bail and left the country? Would they be aghast if I was one day apprehended?

The answer to all of these (extremely) theoretical questions is pretty obvious. I doubt entirely that Whoopi-cushion or Debbie Winger would come to my defense. And just as a pre-emptive strike -- I publicly declare that if I am ever charged with a sex crime, Woody Allen is not to speak in my favor even if I am innocent. I just don't think the dude that married his daughter provides a whole lot of moral fuel to any cause. (But in Mr. Allen's defense: He is a genius and an artist.)

It's this same stupid, obnoxious thread of ideas that always lets the movie star and professional athlete get away with anything and everything... And the same ideas that even bubble down to looking the other way while our high school quarterbacks take their liberties with the law. If it's the law, it's the same law for Hollywood, football players and for Spork.

Now let's generalize one step further out -- because that was really where I was heading, even if the road was a winding one. Can you remember just a week ago when Hollywood moralists were telling us how we, as Americans, are morally responsible for the health care, housing, education and feeding of each and every citizen and/or non-citizen that happens to be standing on our soil? Remember how Hollywood elites strut with their noses in the air and tell us exactly how our money will be spent on their ideas of goodness and morality?

Yes, it's ad hominem. But it still works.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Ah, at last! Here in the land of Jesus, where alcohol is banned from the entire county... We find refreshment of an interesting sort here at the county fair!

But if you look really really closely, you'll see the ultimate in marketing speak:

Pina Coladas and Daiquiris. REFRESHING DRINK MADE WITH RUM Extract.